Mt. Vernon Register-News

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May 17, 2013

Local Tea Party members not targeted

MT. VERNON — A local Tea Party organizer says he or anyone affiliated with the local organization has not been targeted by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Justice Department is investigating the IRS for targeting tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status, according to reports.

Numerous Congressional committees already are investigating the IRS for singling out tea party and other conservative groups during the 2010 Congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election. The federal investigation takes the matter to another level, if investigators are able to prove that laws were broken.

Larry Pearson, who organized several tea parties in Jefferson County in 2010, said he or other representatives of the Jefferson County group have not been targeted yet by the IRS.

"We were an unofficial group and never applied for 501c3 status," Pearson said, adding that a group from Marion County did apply for 501c3 status.

"I don't think they have any way of knowing about us," Pearson added. "If anyone would be targeted, it would be me, but I have not been asked to provide any additional tax information other than what is customary."

He added, "I don't know of anyone in Jefferson County that has been contacted by the government because of their Tea Party activities."

According to an Associated Press story, the IRS started targeting groups with "Tea Party," "Patriots," or "9/12 Project" in their applications in March 2010. The criteria later evolved to include groups that promoted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The practice ended in May 2012, according to a draft of an upcoming report by the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration.

The same can not be said for Sandy Dragoo of Springfield, who organized Sangamon County's Tea Party in February 2009. Dragoo said she was audited by the IRS in 2011.

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